2013 was the year of Verna. This is the year Verna used all her skills and training as a psychotherapist, group facilitator, counselor, advocate, and community case manager to work and volunteer in the social service sector.
In early 2013, Verna joined the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (SCAGO) as a facilitator for their first support group for people living with sickle cell and in September of the same year, Verna was hired by Fred Victor Centre (FVC), a non-profit agency working with low-income people, to work in their Caledonia Shelter as a frontline Hostel Support Worker welcoming and supporting homeless service users 24/7. In the last 7 years, Verna’s positions at Fred Victor changed from being a Mental Health & Addiction Case Manager to currently being a Housing Support Worker.
It was also in August 2013 when Verna was hospitalized for 10 days because of an infection in her blood, which caused a whole-body sickle cell crisis. Verna was informed by her attending physicians that she would have died if she had not sought care as quickly as she did at Toronto General Hospital. Although they saved her life, she believed her care could have been better. She came home from hospital bloated with legs that looked like tree stumps and veins in her right arm that looked collapsed. It took a week for the bloating in her legs to subside and months for her veins to heal. Over the years, Verna has advocated for better healthcare maintenance. Whenever there have been medical services or tests that she has needed to have on a timely basis, she has been proactive with her family physician and health specialists to get the care she needs. Verna hopes that being a patient advocate through PAAC, she will be instrumental in helping to change the set minds of health care professionals and government officials who believe in a one-method-fits-all medical approach to healing patients with sickle cell disease when what is really needed is a varied holistic medical approach for each individual patient.
Verna Lisi is an example to all who work and volunteer in the social service and health care fields of the type of professional advocate that is needed now, not later, now- someone who is friendly, kind, compassionate, and highly skilled in human relations. Verna knows that in order to heal the patient, you have to treat the human being first. Verna has shown each of her clients that they matter, and in turn, each of them cannot thank her enough for being there for them when they needed her the most.